Tokyo Damage Report

japan book review 7a: offensive shinto vocabulary corner

This is a companion to my review of Skya's book JAPAN'S HOLY WAR. Here I'm collecting all the most offensive Shinto propaganda phrases that he used. But I'm also adding the kanji for them!

A lot of these phrases are straight up terrible. But others were kind of "nice" Shinto words that got interpreted in really violent ways during the days of the Japanese Empire (like how jihadis interpret certain bits of the Koran).  Other phrases sound hella innocent, but are euphemisms for ill stuff. I'll try to include example sentences for those, to show how, in context, these "nice sounding, spiritual" words are actually fucked.

Unfortunately, Mr. Skya didn't really explain in any systematic way which phrases are traditional Shinto, and which phrases were simply invented in the  '10s and '20s by these imperialist book-writing guys.

If you like this, please check out my other "dictionaries":




国体:kokutai – the "national body" 

Can be thought of as two points. 1) Who has sovereign powers – king? emperor? legislature? El Generalissimo? And 2)  what is the relation of the sovereign to the public. (are the public individuals? or interchangeable parts?)


政体:seitai: the apparatus by which the sovereign's will is carried out.

(seitai plus kokutai equals political system of a given country)


 統治 :Touchi – imperial sovereignty :

benevolent and impartial, treating all subjects equally. Compare to shihai:


支配: Shihai – the bad, autocratic sovereignty that foreign kings have.

Kings imposing their own power by force on peasants who don’t want to be ruled that way.

君主国体:Kunshu kokutai – monarchal form of government


民主国体:Minshu kokutai – the democratic form of government

鎖国: Sakoku teki – ‘isolated country’ (What Japan was until the Meiji Restoration).

 民本主義:Minponshugi – “people-ism”

 the idea that the government (or the Emperor) should work for the benefit of the common people.

???主義 kunpon shugi – the older, pre-minponshugi  belief that the people existed only for the benefit of the emperor.

Anyone know what the fucking kanji is for this one?

天皇主権説: Tennou shukensetsu – emperor as sovereign theory

天皇機関説:Tennou kikansetsu – the emperor-as-organ theory (opposite of tennnou shukensetsu)


社会民主主義:shakai minshushugi – socialist democracy

体制意思:Taisei ishi – organizational will.

The organization (society, government) has a will of its own, which every citizen has the same vested interest in obeying, since by helping society you help yourself move closer to enlightenment. The emperor is important because only he represents the will or articulates the will. But it’s your will too.


機械的組織:Kikaiteki soshiki – mechanistic organization of society.

Composed of individuals who each pursue their own self-interest. Opposite of you-know-where.

 国権 ??? :Kokken – the will of the state


民族精神:Minzoku seishin –ethnic consciousness

“the KKK is not racist, we are just promoting ethnic consciousness!”


大和魂:Yamato damashii – Yamato spirit

(Yamato being the main Japanese ethnic group)


国民精神:Kokumin seishin – national spirit (see Yamato damashii)


日本精神:Nihon seishin – Japanese spirit.(see Yamato damashii).

Not just loving one’s country but respecting the unbroken chain of tradition and kokutai that goes back to the birth of Japan, unchanging.


指導精神:Shidou seishin – guiding spirit of Japan.

The voice in your head telling you to do what’s right for the country.


民族団体:Minzoku dantai – blood relatives from the same womb.


民族の大生命: Minzoku no daiseimei – the great life of the ethnic-nation

血族国家論:Ketsuzoku kokka ron – blood family state theory


劣等民族: Rettou minzoku  – inferior ethnic group


優等民族:Yuutou minzoku – superior ethnic group


万世一系の天皇:Bansei ikkei no tennnou – the unbroken line of hereditary emperors.


世襲継承:Seshuu keishou – unbroken hereditary succession.

系統主義:keitoushugi – the doctrine of worship of family lineage

一大家族国家:Ichidai kazoku kokka – one large family state.

Not only are all Japanese bonded by blood, and thus have same vested interests, but also you should revere emperor as if he were your own parents.


皇道:Koudou – the Imperial Way

doing what you think the emperor wants!


 天皇御親政 : Tennou goshinsei – direct imperial rule

祭政一 : Saisei itchi – unity of Shinto and the state

AKA the way Japan was run after the army took over and basically abolished democracy. see also: kamunagara

随神 :Kamunagara ( also, 'kamunagara no daidou') : literally, done in the way of the gods, but in practice: a theocratic government.

惟神の道:Kannagara no michi – “a complex term that refers to the relationship between the Japanese people, their ancestors, and their gods”.

 Doing thing the way of the gods, or doing things for the gods.


天皇様の??? :tennousama no iyasaku  – increasing prosperity of the emperor.

What the conquered people were supposed to be contributing to.


建国:Kenkoku – nation-building

Refers not only to the actual beginning of Japan, but (since in Shinto, the  past and future are always with us) to the fulfillment of Japan’s ultimate destiny.


肇国: Choukoku – the founding of the nation.

Of course all nations are founded, but Japan was founded by god to bring peace and harmony to the whole world!  This is often used in conjunction with the next phrase:

天上 無窮の皇運 : Tenjou mukyuu no koun – “the imperial throne coeval with heaven and earth.”

This phrase was popularized in the Imperial Rescript on Education, which all kids had to read in school.  Tenjou mukyuu no koun has its roots in the Shinto “doctrine of benevolent destiny” (Japanese translation not provided). Coeval is a fancy word for “controlling”.

 建国法: Kenkokuhou – the state founding law. (as handed by the gods to the first emperor. Can you guess what kind of country they wanted?)


八紘一宇 : Hakkou ichiu “the whole world under one roof” . . . basically the same as tenjou mukyuu no koun.

 Taken from one of Japan's creation legends, this means Japan's destiny is to spread the harmony and peace of Emperor-worship to the whole planet.

一大普遍生活:Ichidai fuhen seikatsu – under the rule of the emperor, the world was to be “one great universal life.”



 神懸った精神主義:Kamigakatta seishinshuugi – Shinto spiritualism

唯物的個人主義 Yuuibutsu teki kojinsnhugi – materialistic individualism

神主:  kaminushi – Shinto priest

but it’s funny because the kanji look like “god owner.”  (compare to the word for pet owner: 飼い主)

神格: Shinkaku – divine character.

What every Japanese has , since they are direct descendants of god.


生命精神:Seimei seishin – life spirit.

 Taken together, shinkaku and seimei seishin were used to explain Japan beating Russia and china in wars in 1905 and 1895. And therefore, shinkaku and seimei seishin meant that Japanese were invincible in battle – god would not allow them to fail!

敬神の精神:Keishin no seishin – reverence towards gods

(one of the things that makes Japan special). Of course, other countries revere their own (dumb) gods, but only Japan is ruled by a god in person.


 順化:Junka – Shinto rite of purification

 "After he assassinated the pro-democracy activist, the right-wing militia member turned himself in to police, in an act of junka. This proved he was sincere and selfless, which made the public very sympathetic to his cause."



中今: Nakaima: the eternal now .

the future and past are with us forever, as real as now. Japan’s future destiny of ruling the world has, like, already happened, man! And all we have to do is make it, like visible! Or did I just blow your mind?!?!?


没が帰一:Botsuga kiitsu –Dying to the self and returning to the one.

one of the most important concepts in radical Shinto thought. Mr. Hisamatsu, who came up with the term, explained that it meant, “to abandon one’s selfish or individualistic attitude, to absorb ones self into the larger state, and to live as one element of the state.” The state, of course being you-know-who.


合同生存:goudou seizon

(literally, fusion or amalgamated existence” (merging of the individual into society).


合同心???:goudoushin : the desire for two or more independent elements to become one.


 教義:Kyougi – religious doctrine


大儀名文:Taigi meibun – the great duty. 

The duty to help you-know-who conquer you-know-what. 


国民道徳: national morality – things to do to be a good citizen

恋闕: Renketsu – love of country and love of emperor

忠君愛国:Chuukun aikoku – loyalty and patriotism

 戦陣訓:Senjinkun – the field service code, written by Tojo, sort of his version of the imperial rescript to soldiers and sailors.


国学:Kokugaku thought – Tokugawa-era  philosophy on how to be a “correct Japanese citizen” which emphasized emperor over shogun.


市民の道:shimin no michi – The “way of the subject”

 忠孝 :Chuukou – loyalty to your emperor / government as if he/it were your own flesh-and-blood father

 殉死:junshi – willingness of a vassal to follow his lord in death.

仁: Jin – the love of a higher person for the workers in their charge. Benevolence. Chivalry. Charity.


忠:Chuu – the love of a lower person for a higher person, fealty.

神への責任:Kami e no sekinin – responsibility to the gods

本来の分:Honrai no bun – one’s proper place in the social hierarchy



高天原 :Taka maga hara – plain of high heaven.

If we conquer the world, and everyone gives up their individual identities, we can make takamagahara on Earth!


天照大神 :Amateraseu omikami – the god who gave birth to the emperor.

But he’s her reincarnation in human form. So he’s kind of like his own mom, which is pretty fucked up.


宇宙の法則:Ushuu no housoku– the laws of the universe

"You have to go to China and die in a war – it's the ushuu no housoku!"

 神の意思:Kami no ishi – the will of the gods

伊勢:The ISE myth

the creation myth that defines the Japanese conception of kingship??? Anyone know about this???




真心??? :Magokoro – the spirit of kouhei-mushi, which only the Emperor possesses.


公平無私:  kouhei-mushi

total imparitality and disinterestedness. Treating all subjects fairly and seeking no benefits for one’s self. What makes the Emperor the best king ever.

 現御神:akitsumikami – divinity in human form

Guess who?


現人神 :Arahitogami – a deity who is a human being


皇位 : KOUI :  the chrysanthemum throne

Sovereignty resides not just in the current emperor but more importantly and specifically in the imperial throne, the koui.

The emperors come and go, are born and die, but the throne is eternal.


外夷 : Gai-I : foreigan barbarians

???   hoyokusha -assistants (what foreigners in conquered lands were supposed to be, since they could never be Japanese)

can someone please find the kanji for this? Internet is not helping me at all.

 賓客:Hinkyaku – guests

In their own country, no less.

客体: Kyakutai – objects. Also what foreigners could be.


葉隠 :Hagakure – 18th century on bushido and the importance of being ready to die.

 死生観:Shi seikan – traditional Shinto/samurai outlook on death

(hint: it rules!)


結び:Musubi – the harmonious spirit which binds people together in goodwill


順化:Junka – sublimation. What happens to foreign concepts, where they get stripped of meaning (especially universal values or morals, individualism, etc.) so as to fit with Japan’s kokutai.


特攻隊:tokkoutai – special attack force.

What westerners call kamikaze.

 維新: ishin – restoration

As in, Meiji restoration, and the planned "Showa restoration" which the various coups d'etat were supposed to bring about.

戦陣訓:Senjinkun – the field service code, written by Tojo, sort of his version of the imperial rescript to soldiers and sailors.

???  Kyoka – influencing the public

知りきれトンボ:Shirikire-tonbo : one who leaves everything unfinished.

聖戦:Seisen – holy war

 狂信的絶対主義:kyoushinteki zettaishugi – fanatical absolutism

非論理的な独断:Hironriteki na dokudan – illogical dogmatism



. . . and if you know any other words / slogans like this, please leave 'em in the comments! thanks!

7 comments Tags:

7 Comments so far

  1. sephim July 19th, 2011 6:49 pm

    Next time I hear about some fucking idiot thinking about a kanji tattoo, I'll send them here. At least then they can get some context for their squigglies, perhaps they'll even understand why it's shitty for non-Japanese people to get them and just not get one…

  2. ross July 20th, 2011 8:37 am

    These vocab lists are killer. Which is not a phrase I thought I'd ever write.

    I'm pretty sure kunponshugi would be 君本主義, but there's no Japanese wikipedia page for it so ????

  3. François July 20th, 2011 1:55 pm

    I typed a super long commentary for a shit load of kanji, and my system fucked up. I'm depressed and can't type it back.
    If you'll forgive me, I'll just leave and go head-butt a wall repeatedly.

  4. François July 20th, 2011 2:17 pm

    Just quickly:
    支配 is usually used for "domination"
    神主 is usually read かんぬし nowadays
    仁 is also used as a kanji in the name of all heirs to the throne, and read ひと. Latest examples: 裕仁、明人、徳仁、悠仁
    The Japanese creation myth is full of fucked up vocabulary, of course, beginning with the name of the gods, all in 訓読み(天照大神=あまてらすおおみかみ). For more, read the 古事記. Or easier, read this
    Or just this:
    iyasaku is in fact iyasaka: 弥栄
    hoyokusha: wouldn't know, but first part is possibly ほうよう 奉養
    葉隠: anybody who've seen Ghost Dog by Jim Jarmusch has seen this book elevated to glory.
    kyoka = 教化 ex: 無学な者を教化する。 Educate the ignorants.

  5. François July 30th, 2011 6:40 am

    BTW, I'm pretty sure じゅんか would be 純化, wouldn't it ?
    Following your request from another post I don't remember the location of, I wanted to share two depressing 諺:
    蛙の子は蛙 = the son of a frog is but a frog. There's something similar in French and probably in English too. In Japanese, this is always used in a negative context. And when you think about it, it says that no one escape it's condition. This might be a bit farfetched an explanation, but it's a depressing one.
    昔の常識は今の道徳 = yesterday's common sense is today's moral. Meaning that some people follow some precepts as if it was the right thing without even understanding it (anymore). My father in law explained this one to me, but I can't find it anywhere on google.

  6. admin July 31st, 2011 3:55 am

    @francois : rad! I already got the frog one (and for sure that is exactly the kind of suggestion i was looking for!) and i will make sure to include the one about comon sense

  7. John October 20th, 2011 5:47 pm

    Occasionally we find some stereotypical militaristic phrases such as “Kokoku Goji (Uphold the Empire),” “Shinshu Fumetsu (the Immortal Divine Land),” “Yukyu no Taigi (the Noble Cause of Eternal Loyalty),” and the like, but these words are usually used rhetorically rather than conveying deep conviction or abiding nationalistic sentiment.Occasionally we find some stereotypical militaristic phrases such as “Kokoku Goji (Uphold the Empire),” “Shinshu Fumetsu (the Immortal Divine Land),” “Yukyu no Taigi (the Noble Cause of Eternal Loyalty),” and the like, but these words are usually used rhetorically rather than conveying deep conviction or abiding nationalistic sentiment.

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